On Saturday evening, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic pulled off one of the most unlikely career comebacks in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Krakow. The Croatian returned from a four-year stint outside of the UFC to knock out Gabriel Gonzaga, the man who spoiled Cro Cop's title aspirations back in 2007 when he knocked out the PRIDE Grand Prix champion with a head kick.
Almost eight years since that night in Manchester, both fighters have been on the decline. Gonzaga lost a title shot to Randy Couture and Filipovic never regained the confidence he once had, until last night, when Cro Cop turned back time to put a beating on Gabriel Gonzaga.
Official result: Mirko Filiopvic def. Gabriel Gonzaga via TKO (punches and elbows) - round 3, 3:30
What was the high point of the fight?
What really stood out in this fight was Mirko's heart. He was mounted on multiple occasions by a Jiu-Jitsu world champion, cut badly with elbows, yet never showed any signs of surrender. Cro Cop showed determination that he never displayed during his previous UFC tenure. His will to win was clear and it showed in the third round when he pursued Gonzaga relentlessly, after he rocked him with a standing elbow. Cro Cop's ground and pound was also sublime; the addition of elbows to his arsenal makes him far less predictable from top position.
Where do these two go from here?
With this victory, Cro Cop is set to fight Randy Couture for the UFC title at UFC 74, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Well we can wish can't we? In all seriousness. it is unlikely that Cro Cop will make a serious title run. While his temporary renaissance was fun to watch, I would rather see him compete in some marquee fights instead. Two rematches to consider would be fights against former PRIDE opponents Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Josh Barnett.
Gabriel Gonzaga proved in his second stint inside the Octagon that he can put on a hell of an exciting fight. It is likely that the UFC could keep him around as a gatekeeper to test the up-and-coming talents, but last night's loss makes it three in a row for Gonzaga, which could signal the end of his UFC tenure.
Watch now, later, or never?
Watch this one right now. There were low expectations going into this fight but most were really proven wrong. This fight was exciting throughout and showed glimpses of Cro Cop's killer instinct in the 3rd round. Really fun fight to watch and was pretty much the only saving grace from an otherwise terrible Fight Pass card.